At least 25 Indian parliamentarians have tested positive for the coronavirus on the first day of the session as the country reopened its parliament on Monday after more than five months of closure, even as India continues to report the most daily new infections of coronavirus worldwide and daily virus deaths remain above 1,000.
According to local Indian broadcaster NDTV, some 25 parliamentarians tested positive for COVID-19 in mandatory tests carried out before the start of the session on Monday morning. He also said that about 56 people tested positive in RT-PCR tests conducted in the parliament building before September 12. This number includes government officials, media representatives and legislators.
The 18-day session comes as coronavirus infections in India are increasing faster than anywhere else in the world. The more than 92,000 new cases added on Monday brought India’s total to 4.8 million. More than 79,700 people have died.
“All security measures have been taken to conduct the session in accordance with guidelines issued for COVID-19, a government statement said. The statement stressed that all lawmakers must wear masks and follow other disinfection protocols, sit in seats separated by transparent plastic sheets and keep their meetings limited.
Question Time, when lawmakers ask ministers questions and hold them accountable for the operation of their departments, will not be allowed.
Opposition parties have protested the move to end Question Time and are expected to grill the government over its handling of the pandemic, the declining economy and simmering tensions with China.
The main opposition party leader in Congress, Rahul Gandhi, has targeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the surge in virus cases and accused the government of implementing the lockdown without a plan.
“The unplanned lockdown was a man’s ego gift, which led to the spread of the coronavirus across the country,” Gandhi tweeted on Monday.
Millions of Indians lost their jobs instantly and tens of thousands of migrant workers, penniless and fearful of famine, left towns and returned to villages when Modi ordered the national lockdown on March 24.
Unprecedented migration has not only widened the Indian economy, but has also spread the virus to the far reaches of the country. Restrictions have since been eased to boost the economy, even as cases of the virus increased.
In his tweet, Gandhi also referred to a video Modi shared on Instagram last month where he was walking with peacocks at his residence.
Gandhi said the Indian people had to “save their lives because the prime minister was busy with peacocks.”
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